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Fans, artists praise Fest

June 04, 2000|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

When the crowd of 2,500 cheered and gave a standing ovation to blues performer John Jackson, the first person on his feet and in line for an autograph was fan Roger Crowder at Hagerstown's City Park Sunday.

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"He's an icon, a legend," said Crowder as he gazed at his Western Maryland Blues Fest commemorative poster, which Jackson had just signed.

Crowder, of Roanoke, Va., said he appreciates the quality of the acts that perform at the Blues Fest annually, calling blues greats Jackson, Pinetop Perkins and Robert Lockwood Jr., "national treasures."

Jackson's performance on Sunday was a return engagement. He appeared at the Blues Fest three or four years ago and said Sunday that it's gotten better.

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"It's wonderful. I'm having a great time," Jackson said.

He said the crowd was friendly and had high praise for the Hagerstown City Park band shell.

"It's a great stage. It's equal to Carnegie Hall," he said.

Hearing other performers, including those he has known for years, made the event a pleasure, Jackson said.

"I'll come back. All they have to do is ask," he said.

Singer Robert Lockwood Jr. sat at a table signing autographs Sunday as he waited for his turn on stage.

He said he has played at much larger venues, but Hagerstown draws a receptive crowd.

"It's wonderful," he said.

Blues performer Pinetop Perkins capped off the evening Sunday, taking the stage with the Rolling Fork Revue.

A professional blues artist for about 50 years, Perkins said he doesn't plan ahead of time what he'll play.

"Just whatever comes to mind," he said.

Each year since the event's inception, Crowder and about 10 family members have traveled to Hagerstown to listen to the best blues artists around, he said.

"We have a picnic at the same table behind the bandstand every year," he said.

He said he finds blues particularly appealing because of the accessibility of the artists - their willingness to sign autographs, pose for a picture and talk shop with struggling performers.

Crowder said he looks forward to attending all three days of the Blues Fest every year.

"It gets better every year. I don't know how they keep doing it," he said.

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